The Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky was featured in the latest concert by the Symphony of the Americas at the Broward Center in Ft. Lauderdale. Mixed in with a selection of Broadway showtunes, the Symphony was trying to appeal to a wide audience and it seemed to work as the concert was sold out.
The event began with The March of the Trojans by Berlioz. It is part of the first act of his opera The Trojans, which was so elaborate that it was not fully staged until 1957, a century after it was done. The March is a vibrant and triumphant piece of music, and was a great way to start the concert.
The noted Broadway expert Chuck Prentiss was on hand to provide an opening commentary on all the selections from famous musicals such as Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the Roof and Show Boat, which he characterised as "one of the greatest musical scores in all of musical history." It did not entirely impress Florenz Ziegfeld, who produced the show.
"Ziegfeld hated some of the songs," said Prentiss. "When they played Old Man River he locked himself in his office."
As for Fiddler, Prentiss noted that its appeal, originally thought to be narrowly confined to the Jewish community of New York City, is now so great that the review of a recent production in Japan said "it is the greatest American musical ever written about Japan."
Castenets featured in both selections by Tchaikovsky, Capriccio Italien and the great 1812 Overture. A music expert in the audience agreed with me that the symphony did not have the power required to adequately handle the Overture. When I asked him what size of orchestra was needed, he said twice as big. This is not a commentary on their technical prowess however, as it was done with finesse.
The Capriccio, however, was a sheer delight. It was awarded a prolonged ovation at its first performance in Moscow in 1880, and still has an effect both charming and uplifting. Like froth on an Italian sea breeze, the Symphony of the Americas delivered an exhilirating piece of musical showmanship.
The final concert of the season is a joint effort with the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida. It will be held Apr. 7 and Apr. 12.
Visit the website: www.sota.org for details.